Writer Kate Messner to take part in children's literature event this Saturday

PLATTSBURGH The second annual Celebration of Childrens Literature will host one of the latest local names in the genre, Kate Messner, as the childrens author appears at the Kent-Delord House Museum this Saturday, Dec. 8. Mrs. Messners appearance will be part of the annual Christmas open house at the museum, discussing and signing copies of her latest book, Spitfire: A North Country Adventure. The historical fiction novel, set in October 1776, follows the life of 12-year-old Abigail Smith, who risks her life to find her uncle after her father and brother have died of smallpox since fighting at Ile aux Noix in Quebec. Abigail disguises herself as a boy, steals a leaky rowboat and sets out to join the Benedict Arnolds fleet on Lake Champlain. She identifies herself as Adam Smith in order to establish herself as a worker and loyal friend to a young Pascal De Angelis, a documented battle crew member. Neither Abigail nor Pascal realizes how close they are to the Battle of Valcour Island, one of the bloodiest battles during the American Revolution the Champlain Valley ever saw, said Mrs. Messner. Inspiration for Spitfire, said Mrs. Messner, came from a discovery made 10 years ago by the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. The last remaining gunboat from Benedict Arnolds fleet was found at the bottom of Lake Champlain, the body of water Mrs. Messner sees every day when she looks out the window of her home. Upon the museums discovery, her fascination with Lake Champlains role in the American Revolution soon evolved into an obsession, leading her to learn as much as she could about the Battle of Valcour Island. Mrs. Messner knew she wanted to tell the story of the young Pascal De Angelis, who came to the Champlain Valley with his stepfather, a captain of one of the ships. Pascal celebrated his 13th birthday during the battle, which was an interest time in his life she wanted to connect to the story of the missing gunboat, which was identified as the Spitfire. Researching and writing this book was a joy for me, said Mrs. Messner, and seeing kids who live in this region read it and appreciate the history of their lake is just incredible. Being her first published book, the process to develop Spitfire took quite some time, she said. More than six years from the time she began her research to the moment it was printed had transpired. That time consisted of roughly a year and a half of reading and researching the Battle of Valcour Island, another year writing and revising, and several years of submitting to publishers, getting rejection letters and making further revisions, she said. In November 2006, the hard work paid off when North Country Books, Utica, offered Mrs. Messner a contract. Spitfire was published the following September. Though Spitfire is Mrs. Messners first published work, its hardly her first book. The North Country author has also written several other childrens books, including her second historical novel, Champlain & the Silent One, which she recently learned will also be published by North Country Books. The book centers on Samuel de Champlains journey from Quebec to Lake Champlain to encounter the Iroquois, narrated from the point of view of a fictional Montagnais Indian boy who was one of Champlains guides on the journey. I absolutely love the story, though, because again, it celebrates the lake we call home and helps kids to see how they fit into history, said Mrs. Messner. This book also has some strong themes about speaking for peace, and I think thats a message we need in our world right now. I try to turn history into stories and include the real people who were part of those stories not just the presidents and generals, but also the everyday people who made our country what it is today, Mrs. Messner continued, regarding penning historical fiction. I like kids to know that they are a part of history that ordinary peoples decisions matter and help to shape the future. With historical fiction, I also try to balance historical accuracy, which is important, with telling a story that will both engage kids and be useful to teachers. Mrs. Messner has been a lover of books and stories since she was a child. She recalled escaping into the world of Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume books for hours on end and, as she put it, she wanted to be in on that magic, and decided to try her hand at writing. Like most writers, even though I liked it, it took me lots of practice before I was any good at it.Some days, Im still not very good at it, so I do lots and lots of revision, admitted Mrs. Messner. Mrs. Messner recalled often having a novel hidden behind her textbook in class as a child. On more than one occasion, Mrs. Messner said she knew her teacher saw what she was reading, glanced at the title and decided to allow her to keep reading. As a writer, my goal is to write the book that a kid will want to be reading behind the textbook and a book that the teacher will decide is valuable enough to let the kid keep reading, said Mrs. Messner. In addition to the world of wonder Spitfire creates for readers young and old, the book has a 52-page study guide available as a free download from the teachers page at Mrs. Messners Web site, www.katemessner.com. The guide is aligned with the New York State Learning Standards for English Language Arts and Social Studies and contains practice questions based on the state assessments, which is something important to Mrs. Messner, who is a National Board Certified teacher of English Language Arts. Her appearance from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday at the Kent-Delord House Museum located at 17 Cumberland Ave. will round out the very ambitious recent fall schedule for Mrs. Messner, who will be taking a break for the holidays. Future appearances and the latest information about Mrs. Messner and her works can be found on her Web site, www.katemessner.com. Spitfire is available for $9.95 through most area bookstores and on-line at www.amazon.com and www.booksense.com .

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